As this is written I’m counting the days until the Big Brown Truck brings a large, palletized cardboard box from Connecticut that will have 20 cute little boxes inside. Each box will contain a spanking new Colt M4 Commando, current Colt speak for a semi-automatic AR-15 with lightweight 1-in-7-inch twist 11.5-inch barrels.
Fifteen will wind up in the hands of our FAST(Felony Arrest Search Tactical), four will go to our Narcotics unit, and one to a firearms instructor who never wanted to like the gun his dad hated 40-plus years ago. I’m itchin’ to start goin’ Commando, but it took decades to get here.
In the mid-90s I was a law officer involved in narcotics enforcement and among the wave of HK (Heckler & Koch) SMG devotees. Though some forward-thinking lawmen were already calling for 5.56mm systems, a lot of administrators of my father’s generation still had a bad taste in their mouths about the black rifle’s genesis in the South East Asia war games. Besides the tales of malfunctions, they were convinced that rifle cartridges were too over penetrative for police work.
Then two things happened: First, the North Hollywood shootout (everybody kind of ignored the Miami shootout involving the FBI in ’86), and a plethora of similar incidents where cops with pistol-caliber weapons were outmatched by bad guys with rifles. A lady copper who used to work with us has been seen many times on national TV slugging it out with a robber across the length of her car. She has a Glock 22 and he has a .223 semi-auto; she doesn’t look pleased no matter how many times you watch it.
Secondly, exhaustive munitions testing took place, which showed expanding .223-caliber projectiles penetrated less than 9mm, .40 and .45. This led even old hands to see the advantage of a 0- to 300-yard weapon that didn’t over-penetrate. But those things didn’t cause my department’s conversion for another decade. It took another kind of liability.
During my first time undercover, narcotics detectives carried MP5/40s with S-F-3 lowers locked and padlocked into Big Sky security racks in our unmarked cars, but that policy never extended to our FAST unit. Then, during my second narc tour, an in-house lawyer got management to take away the narc buzzguns for fear they’d be stolen.
A federal agency had a whole vanload of NFA (National Firearms Act) weapons stolen from a parking lot in another part of Tennessee, you see, and we didn’t want to make the news for the same reason. Problem is, when you need something bigger than a pistol and with more target discrimination potential than a shotgun, you need it right now and not 20 minutes away inside a locked facility at the office.
So you can’t imagine how pleased I was when Chief Deputy Virgil Gammon asked my opinion about full-auto weapons for police early in ’08. “I don’t think they’re necessary, boss,” I said. “And pistol-caliber carbines [which we already had] aren’t the answer.
“For police work, we need to concentrate on accurate shots fired one at a time, effective suppressive fire can be laid down with semi-autos in the rare instances in which we might need it.” Luckily, my answer was what he wanted to hear, as he was ready to put long guns on the street for FAST, Narcotics and patrol deputies.
“I want the FAST guys and the others to have their special weapons right in the cars with them, but I don’t want them to be full-auto,” he said. We already had a fledgling patrol carbine program going for some patrol supervisors that involved 16-inch barreled Colt LE Carbines, but the chief wanted those capabilities in the hands of first-responders.
Since he was not nearly as concerned with barrel length as buzz switches I suggested getting 14.5-inch LE carbines for patrol and the stubby Commandos for special teams that regularly did entry work. In quick order we traded old service weapons and ordered those weapons. The shortest ones are what we’re talking about now.
Colt’s Bill Chartier quickly arranged a testing and evaluation Commando and gave permission for us to slap any sort of aftermarket product on it we liked. Sadly, he had to send a full-auto version. I took one for the team and accepted it.
The tiny Colt offered no real surprises when fired in its factory trim. It was easy to punch out 1-inch iron sight groups at the 50-yard zero range, which is about as good as I can do. Now that I have my middle-aged eyes properly sorted out again, there are no fleas at all on iron sights inside 50 yards in terms of speed or precision.
With 55-grain practice ammo, the arm averaged a bit over 2,700 fps (feet per second) across the screens of my PACT chronograph. With the 55-grain softpoint loads we intend using, it is ample velocity to ensure rapid expansion/fragmentation.
Forcing myself to fire the weapon in full-auto mode in the interest of science, I burned through a couple hundred rounds. Despite the silly grin on my face, I remained convinced full-auto is best reserved for military applications at relatively short range.
Our LE carbines were equipped with the SureFire M73 rail so I slapped one on the Commando. This, of course, let me put a number of accessories on the arm that make it more efficient. While I tried a several lights including a SureFire Scout Light, the best choice for my vision of a lightweight entry gun was a Streamlight TLR-1.
Though I tried a full-sized TangoDown vertical foregrip with another light, in keeping with the less-is-more credo, I settled on a TangoDown Stubby Vertical Grip at the far end of the rail. With the grip I use, employing the TLR-1 with its original switch is no effort at all given my support handgrip, so no tape switch was needed. Unused portions of the rail were covered with TangoDown covers.
I switched out the factory buttstock with a Magpul CTR Mil-Spec that allowed me to use a LaRue/VTAC sling with LaRue pushbutton swivels. I also used a TangoDown PR-4 sling mount so I wouldn’t have to break loose the tough, peened castlenut.
Our FAST members will be allowed some latitude in configuring the weapons the way they like. Some pine for EOTechs while others are firm Aimpoint proponents. Either will do, and my thoughts will add little to the discourse about virtues and gripes about both company’s product lines.
Suffice to say I tested the Commando with Aimpoint ML2 in a LaRue Tactical CCO mount, an Aimpoint M4 with a KILLFlash in the factory mount, and with a Leupold 1.5-5x non-MR/T version with a German No. 4 Illuminated Reticle mounted with a LaRue SPR base and rings.
They all worked very well indeed, but I tend to favor the Leupold optic for general purpose use, I’m not that likely to have to do a building entry these days. I liked the ability to shoot a near 2-inch group at 200 yards with match ammo out of this tiny carbine with the Leupold.
Outside, target discrimination is the goal. Should I have to go into a house, I can just pop off the scope and pop up the as yet undetermined folding BUIS (back-up iron sights). I have a couple of other 5.56mm carbines in my personal quiver that may get the Leupold, however.
So in the end I may wind up with a Commando with an Aimpoint Micro T-1 in a LaRue mount with a LaRue fixed BUIS in order to keep the weapon trim as possible and would not feel handicapped at all running it without the red dot for many scenarios.
The final piece of kit that will definitely be going onto the FAST team Commandos is a suppressor. After a little bit of haggling with suppliers we’ll soon be receiving another box via UPS that will contain a whole bunch of M4-2000 suppressors and muzzle adaptors from Advanced Armament Corp. The Narcotics guys and others may also get the suppressors, though a funding source for them has yet to be established.
There can be no gainsaying that uncorking a 5.56mm round from a Commando inside a house may cause discomfort or injury to one’s hearing. The suppressors will bring the overall length of the weapons almost back to that of the LE6920s, but the reduction in blast has been deemed worth it.
With not a little sadness I recently shipped the M4 Commando back to Colt. Me ‘n’ the Little Guy had bonded well over the past few months, I’d even learned to live with that darn buzz switch. I only got to unlimber it once for work purposes and it had to be re-bagged without ever getting to see the subject who’d caused the problem. I even let Dad handle it one afternoon.
“It’s damn near as handy as my old M2 Carbine,” the Korean War vet grudgingly admitted. Faint praise, indeed. Which brings me full circle: I’m just tapping my foot impatiently waiting for the Burnt Umber Truck of Happiness to arrive and bring me the M4 Commando replacement piece. Then I’ll be goin’ Commando all the time.